MYSTIC PIZZA: When Antarctica called, a whoop went up from the employees manning the phone banks at Ian’s Pizza. With the addition of the icy landmass, Wisconsin protesters officially had the support of the global public, from every continent on the planet. After the launch of their campaign to feed the protesters, the little pizzeria down the street from the Capitol has emerged as an unlikely hero in the fight against Governor Scott Walker’s plan to ax collective bargaining rights for government workers. Japan, Scotland, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Mongolia, Iran, Haiti, Pakistan, Denmark, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Lithuania, Peru—the list goes on and on. “We’ve gotten calls from more than fifty-eight countries and all fifty US states at this point,” Ian’s manager Staci Fritz told The Nation. Unions across the country have phoned in pizza in solidarity. A Minnesota Congressman donated $3,500 worth of pies.
Ian’s served more than 35,000 slices of pizza in the week after the protests took off, but perhaps the most surprising donation came from a country whose own populist uprising led to the demise of its dictator less than two weeks earlier. “The day we got the call from Egypt—and verified the credit card’s address—we realized this had gotten a lot bigger than Italian food,” Fritz explained.
The pizza parlor has given the international community a concrete way to show its support. The world’s revolutions are becoming related. A spirit of unity is emerging among oppressed populations, and as donors from thousands of miles away have told Ian’s Pizza, “We can’t be there, but we can make sure they’re fed.” CARMEL DEAMICIS
SOLIDARITY SHOWS: At a rally on February 24, amid boisterous union chants and pro-union banners, Takii Christophe, 10, asked his cousin why everyone was yelling. “You want a job?” Ramona Jones, 11, answered.
But this wasn’t Wisconsin—it was New York City, where the two young marchers were among hundreds who gathered at City Hall as part of the AFL-CIO’s “We Are One” campaign to show solidarity with workers in Wisconsin. Dozens of similar rallies took place nationwide that week, attended by healthy numbers of union and nonunion folk. MoveOn.org also mobilized a fifty-state strategy to “Save the American Dream” and reported rallies in sixty-six cities, including every state capital. “An attack on one is an attack on all,” says the Texas AFL-CIO’s Ed Sills. “There’s some basic principles and rights that, if they go down in Wisconsin, it could happen in any state in the US.”
Legislative limits to collective bargaining have been introduced in Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Washington. But a recent New York Times/CBS News survey reported that most Americans oppose the weakening of collective bargaining rights as well as cuts in pay and benefits for public workers. MOLLY O’TOOLE
HUNGARY TARGETS PHILOSOPHY: As The Nation reported in December, after Hungary’s center-right Fidesz Party swept into power last April, it began a clampdown on free expression, passing a punishing and censorious media law, which went into effect on January 1, the day Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán began his term as president of the European Union. While members of the EU have been challenging the law, liberal Hungarian philosophers critical of Orbán have been viciously attacked by the newspaper Magyar Nemzet and other right-wing media outlets. Several philosophers have also been accused by the government of misusing research funds, including Agnes Heller, famous student of Georg Lukács and a great hero of the democratic movement in Hungary. In 1973 the Kádár regime launched a similar campaign. In those days, Heller explained, they could put you in prison for what you said: “Now, they have to accuse us of economic crimes, and drag our names through the mud.”
Major figures across Europe have expressed outrage over the attacks, including Václav Havel, Adam Michnik and Jürgen Habermas. In Paris the Collège International de Philosophie will hold a demonstration in mid-March. Americans, too, have spoken out, including Heller’s colleagues at the New School, who composed an open letter to Orbán.
Heller has never shied away from controversy. She recently sued Magyar Nemzet for slander and won. The newspaper has appealed the decision and continues to attack her, condemning “Heller’s band” of embezzlement before any trial has taken place. “They can look all they want,” Heller told the French newspaper Libération, “but all they will find are heretical ideas.” JUDITH FRIEDLANDER
OCHS ON-SCREEN: In a season of renewed activism on the left, a documentary film about legendary political folk singer Phil Ochs arrives right on time. When the ninety-seven-minute film, Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune, opened in New York in January, its touring schedule cited only nine cities. But after playing for five weeks in New York, the film has opened or is opening in nearly seventy cities. In mid-March and April alone it will be playing everywhere from Seattle to Huntington, New York.
Directed by Kenneth Bowser, the excellent film features commentary by Sean Penn, Tom Hayden, Joan Baez, Christopher Hitchens, Billy Bragg, Paul Krassner and Peter Yarrow, among others. There’s plenty of music, of course, from “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” to several pro-labor songs that are especially relevant today. It also does not shy away from the drinking and bipolar horrors of Ochs’s final years, culminating in his death by hanging at the age of 35 in 1976.
As senior editor at Crawdaddy magazine, I chatted with Phil a number of times in the early to mid-’70s (yes, he usually had a newspaper under his arm), mainly during his less manic periods. Before that, in August 1968, I rubbed shoulders with him at the DNC protests in Chicago, where witnessing police violence sent him into a long downward spiral. Unfortunately, he also had writer’s block and was drinking heavily, but this did not stop him from organizing a successful benefit for Chile at Madison Square Garden after the Pinochet coup as well as the giant “War Is Over” rally in Central Park. He was a singer and activist to the end, and the film pays proper tribute.
To see where the film will be playing, visit firstrunfeatures.com/philochs_playdates.html. GREG MITCHELL